Citizenship Bias Under Supreme Court Review
Note that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not protect employees from discrimination on the basis of citizenship. Only one federal law, the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA), prohibits citizenship discrimination in employment.
There are striking differences between IRCA and Section 1981:
Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA)
Over 17.6 million documented aliens were living in the United States in 1990, plus an estimated additional 5 million undocumented aliens.
Facts of the case under review
Linden Anderson immigrated to the United States from Jamaica in 1968 and began working for the carpenters’ union in 1973. In 1992 he was elected to the position of business representative of Local 17. At that time, the union's constitution required that union officials be citizens of the country in which their local is located.
In 1994, Anderson was removed from his position after being told that he was ineligible to serve as business representative because of his lack of US citizenship. He sued, claiming alienage discrimination in violation of Section 1981. The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled in his favor, finding that Section 1981 prohibits private alienage discrimination.
Arguments that Section 1981 applies to citizenship
According to the Second Circuit, private alienage discrimination has been outlawed by Section 1981 since 1991, at least. The Civil Rights Act of 1991 amended Section 1981 by adding language that explicitly extended the law to private parties.
The court looked at the juxtaposition of the words "persons" and "citizens" in Section 1981 to determine that the law proscribes alienage discrimination. The law states that:
All persons within the jurisdiction of the United States shall have the same right ... to make and enforce contracts ... as is enjoyed by white citizens ...
Arguments that Section 1981 does not apply to citizenship
The union argues that the Second Circuit’s decision "ushered in a broad national policy prohibiting employers, and all other private contracting parties, from distinguishing between citizens and non-citizens—a distinction which Congress itself now draws" by requiring that federal civil service employees be US citizens.
It is doubtful that Section 1981 has ever prohibited alienage discrimination of any sort, asserts the union, pointing out a legion of cases holding that Section 1981 prohibits solely racial discrimination. The law does not expressly prohibit alienage discrimination.
Because Congress has declined to protect aliens under Title VII for the 35 years since its enactment, it seems clear that Congress would not protect aliens with the even broader remedies available under Section 1981, the union reasons. Moreover, protecting aliens under Section 1981 would conflict with IRCA’s comprehensive approach to the entire field of immigration control, notes the union. IRCA proscribes the hiring of illegal aliens.
The Supreme Court’s decision is expected during the Court’s 1999-2000 term.
Cite: United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America v. Anderson, USSCt Dkt No. 98-958, cert granted April 26, 1999. Reviewing Anderson v. Conboy (2dCir 1998) 74 EPD 45, 552, 156 F3d 167.